Johannes Tobias Wessels from Kraaifontein fabricated invoices from five of his businesses to claim fraudulent VAT refunds in excess of R15-million from SARS over a period of seven years.
Wessels pleaded guilty to 403 charges of fraud and 11 charges of contraventions of the Income Tax Act in terms of a plea and sentence agreement with the State. The contraventions of the Tax Act comprised six counts for the non-submission of income tax returns and five counts for failure to keep proper books of accounts. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment, with three years is conditionally suspended. This included 18-months imprisonment for failure to submit income tax returns.
The VAT refunds were not based on actual transactions. Instead, Wessels obtained the unlawful refunds by creating fictitious invoices and shifting money between his businesses. He used a significant amount for his personal benefit, of which “a significant amount was spent on gambling”.
In a separate matter, Mr Wessels was sentenced to seven years imprisonment on fifteen charges of VAT fraud last year. An appeal against this sentence has since been dismissed. He will serve this seven-year sentence concurrently with the twelve year sentence handed down yesterday.
These successful prosecutions clearly demonstrates that SARS has the skills, experience and determination to effectively detect non-compliance by taxpayers and ensure such perpetrators face the full might of the law. The convictions are a strong warning that anyone that attempts to avoid their tax obligations through irregular means will be dealt with accordingly.
With this in mind, SARS wishes to assert that the organisation remains resolute, focused and single-minded in ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax.